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September 24, 2017

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Former coke kingpin now serves dogs, not drugs

MARKHAM, Illinois -- Two decades after customers clamored to buy cocaine from a teenager named John Cappas, they're lined up again to buy what he has to sell: Hot dogs.

The one-time "drug kingpin," as the newspapers called him in the late 1980s, this summer became an owner of a hot dog stand called Johnny's WeeNee Wagon.

It's a few Chicago suburbs and a world away from where he ran the drug empire that made him US$25,000 a week — enough to buy a house, fast cars and a necklace that spelled "Spoiled Brat" in diamonds to drape around his Playboy bunny girlfriend.

In a bright red building that looks like a barn with a man-sized statue of a hot dog wearing an American flag out front, he sells hot dogs, gyros, burgers, and now for the first time since the place opened in 1955, french fries.

"I'm doing the right thing now," said the 43-year-old Cappas, who was released in 2004 after serving 15 years in prison.

That doesn't mean Cappas is shying away from his past.

He obviously enjoys telling stories about what life was like before he was arrested. Like the time he made headlines when, knowing federal agents were looking to arrest him, he and a local television reporter took a spin on Lake Michigan on a friend's speedboat ("The feds had already seized mine," he said.) before he turned himself in.

Nor did he keep it a secret that for his grand opening last weekend — an event that included a magician and a tiger he says belonged to former boxing champ Mike Tyson — he'd asked two friends who were Chicago police officers before they were convicted of selling cocaine to judge his auto show.

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